Each starts as one cell, then divides into two cells and then four cells and then eight cells and on and on in a beautiful illustration of nature performing mathematics: 2 raised to the umpteenth power. Frog's eggs usually look like a dark, globular mass (or, if you will, dark, globular math), but the other day they shimmered and sparkled with clarity in the late-afternoon sunlight striking our local vernal pool. Pamelia preserved the moment in these photos. I think they're cool.
Other Bird News This was a first: I received an email request yesterday asking for permission to use one of my photos in a nature video about ducks. We'll let you know when the video (which is going to be a humorous but educational one for kids) is available. The picture, which ran with a 2012 blog post about the death of a duck by our house, is below.
The Boston Photo (and Afterwards) Those of you who follow The Naturalist's Notebook's Facebook page—or read the Mount DesertIslander newspaper—know that Pamelia and I experienced a freaky coincidence last Monday, the day of the Boston Marathon. At about 3 p.m., as we walked along the shore of Maine's Western Bay, she found an unusual shard of sea glass with BOSTON embossed on it. It made us think happily of our recent trip to that city, and made me think of the marathon. The piece was beautiful, so I photographed it against the sky.
Back home about an hour later, I turned the computer on to download my photos and learned the horrific, almost unbelievable news from the marathon. I checked to make sure no one from SI had been hurt. When I put the photo and story on our Facebook page, it was clear that people needed to express their shock and sadness over the bombings. Many of them shared or commented on the photo. One suggested that we see it as a symbol of Boston's resilience in the face of tragedy. I liked that perspective. The sea glass (which has 1850 embossed on it as well) had survived many years of battering by the ocean and had come through it looking beautiful. In the end, more than 26,000 people viewed the photo on Facebook, and the editor of the Islander emailed and asked if the newspaper could run it. The picture appeared on the front page.
The Boston tragedy and the story of the perpetrators continues to dominate the news and to strike a personal note with the two of us. In November we were in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia; on the other side of those mountains is Chechnya, home to the two brothers' ethnic roots. One of the brothers shot a policeman at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, by the school's Stata Center, where Pamelia took my photo last month (below). I didn't even know the name of the architecturally distinctive building until I read a news account of the shooting.
The decisions made inside human brains are fascinating and, in cases like this, horrifying. We're currently creating a brain room at The Naturalist's Notebook because we're among the many people eager to explore and understand the human brain. What neural connections or malfunctions make a person kill? What brain mechanism makes a person love? What makes a person rational or irrational, or even able to define what it is rational? What leads us to perceive a shard of old glass as a symbol of life, death, sports, terror, humanity, inhumanity and an entire city? The answers lie inside our heads, inside a five-pound organ that is more mysterious than the entire universe.
Answer to the Last Puzzler 1) Sir Francis Bacon died from pneumonia he developed while studying how freezing of meat can help preserve it.
2) The two cones in the photo are from a white pine and a white spruce.
Today's Puzzler Match the quote to the naturalist who said it: a) Jane Goodall b) John Muir c) David Attenborough
1) "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." 2) "My mission is to create a world in which we can live in harmony with nature." 3) "I don't run a car, have never run a car. I could say that this is because I have this extremely tender environmentalist conscience, but the fact is I hate driving."